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The City of the Dead (1960)

Witches, sacrifice and weird happenings in New England

A young coed uses her winter vacation to research a paper on witchcraft in New England. Her professor recommends that she spend her time in a small village called Whitewood. He originally cam from that village so he also recommends she stay at the “Raven’s Inn,” run by a Mrs. Newlis. She gets to the village and notices some weird happenings, but things begin to happen in earnest when she finds herself “marked” for sacrifice by the undead coven of witches. It seems that the innkeeper is actually the undead spirit of Elizabeth Selwyn, and the “guests” at the inn are the other witches who have come to celebrate the sacrifice on Candalmas Eve.

Also known as Horror Hotel because most horror genre films produced during that time period were usually marketed to teenagers and young adults, who preferred those silly titles that promised cheap thrills. Horror Hotel’s legacy in modern times… UK heavy metal band Iron Maiden used scenes from this classic horror movie in the music video for their song “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter.” King Diamond also used various clips in their “Sleepless Nights” video, while Rob Zombie used Christopher Lee’s opening words “Burn Witch, Burn Witch… Burn! Burn! Burn!” to similarly preface his track “Dragula” from Hellbilly Deluxe. In addition, the punk band Misfits wrote a popular song called “Horror Hotel.”

Directed by first-time feature helmer John Llewellyn Moxey (who would direct the original Kolchak TV movie, 1973’s The Night Stalker), this UK film was also the first to be produced by future head of Amicus, Milton Subotsky. Still more of a cherished cult item even all these years later rather than a widely known classic, The City of the Dead is pretty near-perfect. It’s in crisp black and white, it’s entirely set-bound (which gives the “outdoor” scenes in Whitewood an off-kilter, artificial feel), it’s got horror royalty in the form of Christopher Lee, and Whitewood is shrouded in thick fog, just like a town in a horror movie ought to be (making it all the better for processions of dark-robed figures to wander their way through).Shocktillyoudrop

Stream Similar Film  The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)

Director: John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring: Patricia Jessel, Dennis Lotis, Christopher Lee

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